Evergreen Lessons of the Iraq War Twenty Years Later

On March 19th, 2003, the U.S. invaded Iraq based on false claims of weapons of mass destruction. The invasion destabilized the region and led to Iraq’s economic collapse, sectarian resentment, to two insurgencies and the growth of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which later morphed into ISIS. The resulting conflict took a heavy toll — 4,418 U.S. troops died during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and another 107 died during Operation Inherent Resolve to defeat ISIS, while Brown University’s Watson Institute estimates that between 275,000 to 306,000 Iraqi civilians were killed. No weapons of mass destruction were found. Why were Congress and the American public so easily misled in the lead up to the 2003 invasion? Has anything changed since then that would make it less likely for this to happen again? What are the long-term consequences of this invasion? Why are U.S. troops still in Iraq, 20 years later? What is the legacy of the U.S. invasion in Iraq and what does a post-American Iraq look like? Join us for a discussion of these questions and more with Marsin Alshamary, Assistant Professor at Boston College, Michael O’Hanlon, Senior Fellow and Director of Research for Foreign Policy at Brookings Institution, and Steven Simon, Senior Research Analyst at the Quincy Institute and the Robert E. Wilhelm Fellow at the MIT Centre for International Studies. Adam Weinstein, Research Fellow in the Quincy Institute’s Middle East Program, will moderate. 


Marsin Alshamary

Marsin Alshamary is an assistant professor of political science at Boston College. She is also a research fellow at the Middle East Initiative at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs with the Harvard Kennedy School and a nonresident fellow with the Foreign Policy program at Brookings, where she was a postdoctoral research fellow from 2020-21. Her research focuses on the intersection of religion and politics in the Middle East, particularly at how the Shi'a religious establishment in Iraq has intervened in formal politics, in protest, and in peacebuilding. She is currently working on her book manuscript, "A Century of the Iraqi Hawza: How Clerics Shaped Protests and Politics in Modern Day Iraq", which examines how the Shi'a religious establishment reacted to protest movements throughout Iraq’s history.

Michael O'Hanlon

Michael O'Hanlon is a senior fellow, and director of research, in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution, where he specializes in U.S. defense strategy, the use of military force, and American national security policy. He co-directs the Security and Strategy Team, the Defense Industrial Base working group, and the Africa Security Initiative within the Foreign Policy program, as well. He is an adjunct professor at Columbia, Georgetown, and Syracuse universities, and a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. O’Hanlon was also a member of the External Advisory Board at the Central Intelligence Agency from 2011-2012. His most recent book, Military History for the Modern Strategist: America's Major Wars Since 1861 was published in January 2023.

Steven Simon

Steven Simon is Senior Research Analyst at the Quincy Institute and the Robert E. Wilhelm Fellow at the MIT Centre for International Studies. Prior to this, he was Executive Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies for the U.S. and Middle East. From 2011 to 2012 he served on the National Security Council staff as senior director for Middle Eastern and North African affairs. He also worked on the NSC staff 1994 – 1999 on counterterrorism and Middle East security policy. He is the co-author, among other books, of The Age of Sacred Terror, winner of the Arthur C. Ross Award for best book in international relations. His most recent book, The Long Goodbye: The United States and the Middle East from the Islamic Revolution to the Arab Spring will be published this spring.

Adam Weinstein (Moderator)

Adam Weinstein is a Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute. He previously worked for KPMG’s international trade practice. Adam’s current research focuses on security, trade, and rule of law in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Middle East. He previously worked as senior law and policy analyst at the National Iranian American Council where he focused on the securitization of U.S. immigration policy and its effect on immigrant communities. He is also a non-resident fellow at Tabadlab, an Islamabad based think tank and advisory firm. He received a JD from Temple University Beasley School of Law with a concentration in international law and transitional justice. Adam served as a U.S. Marine and deployed to Uruzgan Province Afghanistan in 2012.